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HQ 954719

FEBRUARY 1, 1994

CLA-2:CO:R:C:M 954719 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8531.80.00

Area Director of Customs
110 S. Fourth Street, Rm. 137
Minneapolis, MN 55401

RE: PRD 3501-92-100144; Cabin Intercommunication Data System (CIDS) for Airbus A-320; Passenger Address Audio and Visual Signaling Apparatus; Apparatus for Making Audio and Visual Communication with Passengers; Electric Sound or Visual Signaling Apparatus, Heading 8531; Apparatus for Line Telephony or Line Telegraphy, Heading 8517; Composite Machine, Principal Function, Section XVI, Note 3; Heading 8803, Parts of Airplanes; Civil Aircraft Agreement (CAA)

Dear Sir:

This is our decision on Application for Further Review of Protest No. 3501-92-100144, filed against your action in classifying certain audio and visual communications equipment from Germany for use aboard the Airbus A-320 aircraft. The entry under protest was liquidated on April 10, 1992, and this protest timely filed on May 21, 1992.


The Cabin Intercommunication Data System (CIDS) is a microprocessor controlled data bus system for the control, operation and testing of passenger address (PA), cabin interphone, passenger call, passenger lighted signs, general illumination and emergency evacuation signaling. It is apparatus that permits the pilot and flight attendants to make audio communication with the passengers and to activate certain visual signaling apparatus.

A pilot wishing to make an audio announcement to the passengers activates the public address microphone which emits a signal in digital form. An encoding/decoding device, designated the DEU-A, converts this signal into analog format which it then transmits through the CIDS to the PA loudspeaker. The same process enables the pilot or flight attendant to turn on NO - 2 -

SMOKING and FASTEN SEATBELTS signs which are visual signaling devices. The DEU-A also works in reverse to convert passengers' analog "call" signals to digital format which are displayed on the flight attendant indicator panel. Another encoding/decoding device, designated the DEU-B, allows flight attendants to address passengers using a handset located at the flight attendant station, in the same manner as the pilot utilizing the DEU-A, except that after converting the analog signal to digital format the CIDS relays the signals through the DEU-A to the PA loudspeaker. The DEU-B also converts passengers' analog signals to digital format which the CIDS visually displays on the flight attendant's indicator panel. A passenger may activate his reading light by means of a signal which the DEUs convert and relay to the CIDS.

The CIDS was entered under the duty-free provision for other parts of airplanes and helicopters, in subheading 8803.30.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Counsel for the protestant reasserts this classification and notes the safety-critical features mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration which the CIDS implements. Alternatively, counsel maintains that the CIDS is provided for in subheading 8531.80.00, HTSUS, as other visual sound or signaling apparatus, noting that much of the mandated safety information is displayed through warning signals and indicator panels. The protested entry was liquidated under the provision for private branch [telephonic] switching apparatus, in subheading 8517.30.20, HTSUS. You now contend, however, that the CIDS is an aircraft intercom system classifiable in subheading 8517.81.00, HTSUS, as other telephonic apparatus.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

8517.30.20 Telephonic or telegraphic switching apparatus: Private branch exchange switching apparatus...8.5 percent

8517.81.00 Other apparatus: Telephonic...8.5 percent

8531.80.00 Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus: Other apparatus...Free under CAA

8803.30.00 Other parts of airplanes or helicopters ...Free - 3 -


Whether the CIDS is a composite machine; if so, whether it has a principal function.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

Initially, articles of chapter 85 are precluded from classification in subheading 8803.30.00, HTSUS. Section XVII, Note 2(f), HTSUS. Therefore, if the CIDS is a machine or apparatus of chapter 85 it cannot be classified in subheading 8803.30.00.

From the information available to us, it appears that the CIDS is apparatus that performs two functions that are complementary. As such, it is a composite machine consisting either of two or more machines fitted together to form a whole or as being a machine that performs two or more complementary or alternative functions. Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS. Composite machines are to be classified as if consisting only of that component or as being that machine which performs the principal function.

The CIDS performs an audio communications function that is appropriate to goods of heading 8517, electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy. It also performs a visual signaling function appropriate to goods of heading 8531, electric sound or visual signaling apparatus. Pilots normally utilize the audible communications feature to announce emergency situations, and shortly after takeoff to inform passengers of flying conditions such as weather, altitude and airspeed as well as estimated time of arrival and other conditions at the plane's destination. Flight attendants use the same audio medium at the beginning of each flight to explain the plane's safety features. Passengers cannot use this feature to communicate with the pilot or flight attendants. The audio feature, while certainly important, is in relatively infrequent use and usually only at certain specified times during a flight. On the other hand, the pilot and flight attendants access the visual signaling feature to illuminate the NO SMOKING and FASTEN SEATBELT signs over each passenger's seat. The former is in constant use since most domestic flights are non-smoking, while the latter is always in use on takeoff and landing and on a sporadic basis during the flight as the plane changes altitude or encounters turbulence. - 4 -

Individual passengers can "call" a flight attendant by generating a signal that is converted and displayed on the flight attendant's indicator panel. Passengers can also individually activate their reading lights. Thus, the visual display function is reciprocal and is available to the pilot, the flight attendants and the passengers as well.

While not conclusive, the available evidence indicates to us that it is the visual signaling function that is the more versatile and is used with more frequency. We therefore conclude that the principal function of the CIDS is in visual signaling, appropriate to apparatus of heading 8531.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the Cabin Intercommunication Data System (CIDS) is provided for in heading 8531. It is classifiable in subheading 8531.80.00, HTSUS, as other electric sound or visual signaling apparatus. The rate of duty on such apparatus under the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft is free.

The protest should be allowed. In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you should mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and to the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Lexis, the Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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